Muhammad Ali Jr. was stopped and questioned about his identification for nearly a half hour at Reagan National Airport on Friday, less than a day after speaking to Congress about being detained and questioned about his religion at a Florida airport on February 7th.
“This whole thing smacks of some sort of retaliation for his testimony,” Ali’s lawyer Chris Mancini told the New York Times on Friday evening.
According to Mancini, a Jet Blue agent held Ali and called the Department of Homeland Security because the agent doubted the validity of Ali’s Illinois identification card, the same one he had used to travel to Washington D.C. days earlier. Ali eventually produced his U.S. passport and was able to board the flight.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who was not present at the congressional forum on Thursday, was on the same flight and tweeted about the incident, which she referred to as religious profiling.
— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) March 10, 2017
On Thursday, Ali and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali — the son and ex-wife of late boxing legend Muhammad Ali — urged Congress 30 days after the first airport incident to oppose President Trump’s Muslim ban, and offered their support to the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA).
“I felt just like I felt at my father’s funeral,” Ali, an American citizen, told members of the House Judiciary Committee as he described being detained at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for 90 minutes and asked about his religion and the origin of his name.
“I was so violated,” Camacho-Ali, who was also questioned by immigration officers during the incident, said. “This is not acceptable. I’ve never felt this uncomfortable being in this country.”
Both Ali and his mother urged Congress and all American citizens to “step into the ring and fight for religious freedom.”
On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration released a statement to the Times downplaying the latest incident, noting that Ali caused a hold-up in the security checkpoint because “his large jewelry alarmed the checkpoint scanner.”
But Mancini was reportedly “baffled” by this statement, because Ali was not complaining about his experience at security, only about what happened when he was checking in for the flight. Mancini is filing a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and said that a lawsuit is in the works.
“People need to start paying attention to what’s happening in our country,” Mancini said. “Our rights are being eroded.”